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October 2006
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December 2006

Salesforce.com Not Quite a Web 2.0 Company

After hosting our own SugarCRM system at a hosting site and testing it, we realized one of the modules couldn't quite do what we needed it to.  So we decided to use Salesforce.com.  So I got the contract, digitally signed it with my Verisign id and sent it in.

Where it was rejected.

You see, Salesforce.com does not accept digital documents.  So I had to print it out, sign it with a pen, and fax it to them.Marc

Umm, Earth to Marc.


2 bucks well spent

The "end" key on my Sprint phone stopped working.   I managed to work around it for several days, but then it struck me, how do I turn the phone off?   Now this is important.

Normally I go to a Sprint corporate store and mark down 2 hours lost from my life.  But I found that Orion Wireless in Salt Lake is a full blown Sprint service center, but is privately owned.    So I took my phone there.   

What a difference.  No slick advertising.   Just a couple of desks in a small showroom.  And very nice people who believe that their existence depends upon happy customers.  Within 30 minutes they took apart my phone and found a bad board.  Uh oh.

But for the price of a 30 minute repair they got me into a brand new phone.  In about 15 minutes. Sanyo_scp6600k

Moral of the story.  Stay away from the corporate stores.

Turns out the new phone has a feature where it will synchronize all my phone contacts with Sprint's web site.  I don't know about you, but I end up putting quite a bit of important data in my contact list.   But adding new numbers is difficult for me.   I'm just not that good at texting.    By the time I send a 3 word text message, my daughter has sent an essay.   So having the ability to type information on the web site and magically appear on my phone is worth two bucks to me.

No one wants to buy insurance.  Had the service only been a backup of my contact information, I probably would have taken a pass.  Because I just know my phone will never die.   But by adding a feature which I can use every week, now that's strong value proposition.   Sadly Sprint only focused on the negative and didn't even mention entering data on the web site.   That I found in a posting in the user group forum.   

Now if they were really smart, they would add an import feature (say vcards) on their web site.   

Focus on the positive and then mention how you are looking out for your customers.   That's powerful.


Cingular Hates Me

I've had the same cell phone plan for 11 years.  That's right, 11 years.  The reason I like the plan, is it charges 25 cents per minute .  Plus roaming and long distance.   Which can cost 80 cents a minute.  Which is a lot unless you only use this phone every other month for 3-5 minutes.  Then it's a real good deal.

So I've been paying $2-6 phone bills on average.

Then Cingular decided to pull the plug on the network.  So as an incentive, they would throw in a free phone if I would pay them $30 a month.  Hmmmmm.  I don't think so.

So starting 3 months ago, they are charging me an extra $6 / month.  Just because.  When I called about it, I was told it was legal because they told me about it on one of my phone bills.

Dumping Cingular doesn't bother me.  Their arrogance has already cost them two of my other phone lines (which lost them $3,000 / year).   But what really bugs me is we have this old color motorola flip phone with a metal case.  (from the  ATT wireless days).  The call quality is  superb.

Does anyone make a high call quality phone?   Please tell me if you know of one.


Disposable Customers

I read today that it costs a cell phone company $4 to acquire a new customer and about $50 to do a support resolution with them.  (sorry, lost the link)  Which explains a lot I think about quality of service with cell phone companies.

Not debating if that is a good long term strategy or not, but in most of our businesses this is not the case.   If you want to retain your best customers (remembering to send your worst ones to your competitors) having a customer advocate is a great thing.

There are three companies I always like to do business because of this.  The first one is American Express.  No matter what, they'll investigate if you ever have a problem.   I always use them when buying over the Internet, or dealing with other large companies.

The second is Amazon.   I would rather buy through a merchant using Amazon then directly with the merchant.  Again, because I know Amazon will stick up for me.

And lastly my local branch of Chase bank (formally Bank One).  They know who I am and I always get the benefit of the doubt.

So ask yourself, would you rather be viewed by your customers as being in the company of Cingular or American Express?


Stealing an Election?

I've been following this for several years now (hey, I'm from Chicago after all).   After the problems with the 2000 election, the knee jerk reaction was to throw technology at it.   Oh my.   If you don't have HBO, find a friend who does and watch this documentary.   Is it the truth and the whole truth?  Don't know.  But it does bring up some interesting  questions. (for more information search for "voting machine hack")

There are two problems here.  The first is the question of the security of a system from private vendors which cannot be audited by the public or public officials.  Election The second is rolling out anything this new and expecting everyone (including the voters) to be properly trained on it.

However there is an opportunity here for one of you to build a billion dollar company in no time at all.  Simply come up with a voting system which is open source and available for anybody to see and contribute to the effort.   Do  a similar deal with the good folks at IBM who makes the guts for ATM machines to build the hardware.  That's how Diebold got into the business after all.

First problem solved.

Then have a professional services and training program for the entire country.   

Second problem solved.

This would be so easy to sell.   You could just say "Our systems are secure, see for yourself".   Which none of your competitors could do.   Now that would be a marketer's dream come true.

But no matter what, please spend the weekend looking at the issues and candidates and make sure you vote next week.

And you can tell your friends "I think I voted".